Texas Tech's Francis mourning loss of Hussle

MINNEAPOLIS -- It's a bittersweet week for Texas Tech guard Brandone Francis.

His Red Raiders made it to the Final Four for the first time in program history, but Francis is also mourning the death of his friend, rapper Nipsey Hussle. Hussle was shot and killed earlier this week in Los Angeles.

Francis said he met Hussle five or six years ago, when Francis, a Dominican Republic native, first came to the United States. Francis' father, Bob, works in the music industry as a brand ambassador and worked with Hussle for about 10 years.

"Nips took me in like a little brother," Francis told ESPN. "We always FaceTime, I follow him on social media, we catch up. On my birthday, he gave me a beautiful message, sent me a beautiful video, wishing me happy birthday. I will never forget that."

Hussle attended Texas Tech's Elite Eight win over Gonzaga.

"For me to experience that Final Four night with him was something I will never forget," Francis said. "That will always live with me forever, until the day I die.

"Just for him to be in the stands, he didn't have to do that. He was sitting right next to my dad and my sister, just like a regular fan, man. He's one of the best rappers in the world, and he's over there just cheering me on like a regular fan. That tells you who he was as a person, just super humble. Me and him had a moment right after the game. It was amazing, man."

Francis said he knew there was a possibility Hussle was going to come to the game the day before when Francis added his name to the ticket list. When his father told him that Hussle was actually going to make it, Francis said he started acting "like a little kid."

"[I was saying], 'Nip is coming, man. He is gonna come and see me,'" Francis said. "I'm a grown man over here, excited about another man coming to see me play. But that's when you knew how much impact he had in my life. ... For him to see me do that at that stage, that's big, man. That's something I will tell my kids someday."

Hussle is still the background of Francis' phone, and Hussle's song, "Between Us," could be heard blaring in the locker room on Thursday afternoon. Francis said he might write Hussle's name on his shoes for Saturday's game against Michigan State, or possibly wear a T-shirt in his memory.

"I'm still in shock, man. It hasn't left my mind," Francis said. "But at the same time, I have to get ready to perform for my team. He's in my mind 24-7. It's going to take me a very, very long for me to get over it. It was tough, man. You're making it to the Final Four. ... It's like a bittersweet moment. Happy that we're going to the Final Four, but at the same time, you lost one of your favorite peoples in the world."